In 1998 and 1999, American scientists Michael Mann, Raymond Bradley and Malcolm Hughes published two papers that reconstructed the average temperatures of the northern hemisphere back to the year 1000. The articles showed a temperature profile that gently declined from 1000 to 1850, fluctuating a little along the way, with a sudden increase in the late nineteenth and the twentieth centuries. The graph was nick-named “the Hockey Stick”, with its long relatively straight handle showing the stable pre-industrial climate and the blade representing the sudden uptick in the last 150 years.
The diagram was a striking depiction of the abrupt warming that had occurred since the Industrial Revolution compared to what happened before. For those opposed to the scientific consensus on Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW), the Hockey Stick posed a threat and had to be broken. Continue reading →
The Denial 101x MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) was a great success, with thousands of participants and many satisfied students. I admit that I was quite touched by the mostly positive student reactions and I am thankful to John Cook for inviting me to contribute to this course in a small way. This video compilation of students’ feedback shows how people from diverse backgrounds all got something from the course.
The volunteers at Skeptical Science, along with staff at the University of Queensland, have been busy over the past several months putting together a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on climate change. The course, Making Sense of Climate Science Denial, starts on April 28th and is free to anyone who wants to participate. It will last for seven weeks and will require an hour or two of attention every week.
Thousands of people have already signed up, but we are hoping for many more. Learning will not just come from watching the many short video lectures we have prepared, but from discussions with fellow students. So, no matter what your level of knowledge, or your point of view on man-made climate change might be, please join us. I’m looking forward to learning from this course, too.
All anyone needs is an Internet connection, a desire to learn and share your knowledge, and an ability to understand English spoken in American, British, Canadian and Australian accents.
George Marshall has written a book that is essential reading for everyone interested in communicating the science of climate change and its urgent policy implications. Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change comprises 43 short and well-written chapters that explain why strenuous efforts to spread the word and spur action on climate change have failed.
There is no question that the problem is far from licked: the Keeling Curve continues its upward rise; American conservatives remain stuck in an intellectual dead end on climate; other countries pay lip service to the threat while making only token gestures to solve it; every year there is a big international get-together at COP meetings where thousands of delegates gather to push the policy boulder up Sisyphus’ hill, only to watch it roll down again. Opinion polls, it is true, show that there is broad public acceptance of the scientific basis of climate change, but the understanding of the problem is shallow. People say they care about climate change, but when it comes time to vote, other issues loom larger.
Marshall has worked for 25 years as a campaigner in environmental movements, including Greenpeace US and the Rainforest Foundation. He is a co-founder of the Climate Outreach Information Network, a UK based charity committed to ensuring that climate change and its impacts are understood and acted upon. Continue reading →
Elizabeth Nickson1 gets some things right: there is some good news about the Earth’s population. According to the Swedish statistician Hans Rosling2 we may have reached Peak Child — the number of people aged less than 15 may well never again be larger than it is today. And she may be correct that material consumption in rich countries may be reaching a plateau.
However, this is not the same as saying that the demand on the Earth’s resources has stopped growing. The population of the planet will continue to grow from the current seven billion to, about ten billion by the end of the century. That’s roughly 40 per cent more mouths to feed than now. More importantly, the six billion poorest people on the planet are quickly getting richer. While this is undoubtedly great news, nine billion people at the end of the century aspiring to live like the richest billion of us do today will place huge additional demands on the planet’s resources.
It is not news that people are polarized over their assessment of the risks posed by climate change. But is it true that the most polarized people are those who are more scientifically literate? Counter-intuitive though it may seem, the answer is: Yes, it is. This is the result of a recent article by Dan Kahan and six colleagues in Nature Climate Change (henceforth, the Kahan Study). This study has received a lot of attention, with blog articles, for example in The Economist, Mother Jones and by David Roberts at Grist.
At Skeptical Science, our goal is to debunk false arguments and explain the science behindclimate change. In the light of this peer-reviewed research, we have to ask ourselves: if we are striving to increase scientific literacy, won’t we just be making the polarization that exists aroundclimate change worse? We will come back to that question at the end of this piece, but first, we’ll look in some detail at the Kahan Study itself.